Dr. Christina Tschida organizes summit on elementary social studies

The inaugural Elementary Social Studies Education Summit (ESSES) brought together nearly 70 scholars, teachers, and graduate students involved in elementary social studies for two days of learning, sharing, and collaboration.

The five organizers of ESSES

The Elementary Social Studies Education Summit’s organizers were, from left to right, Dr. Elizabeth Bellows of Appalachian State University, Dr. Lisa Brown Buchanan of University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Dr. Sarah Shear of University of Washington-Bothell, Dr. Christina Tschida of East Carolina University, and Dr. Liz Saylor of University of Georgia.

ECU College of Education’s Dr. Christina Tschida was on the planning committee for the June 7-8 summit held at UNC-Wilmington’s Watson School of Education. The summit focused on those doing important critical work in elementary social studies and literacy. Throughout the two days, participants were able to attend sessions on the issues of race and gender, working with and for LGBTQ students, using current events, tackling the topic of genocide, exploring historical events and people, and issues of identity, among others.

The event’s keynote speaker was Dr. Noreen Naseem Rodríguez, an assistant professor of elementary school studies in the School of Education at Iowa State University, and her address was titled, “Why We Can’t Wait: Toward Transformative Elementary Social Studies Teacher Education.”

Participants could also attend two pre-summit clinics featuring Dr. Sohyun An from Kennesaw State University who spoke on “Unpacking Patriotism in an Elementary Social Studies Methods Class” and Dr. Leilani Sabzalian from the University of Oregon and Dr. Sarah Shear of the University of Washington-Bothell who spoke on “Critical Orientations for Indigenous Studies in Elementary Social Studies Methods Courses.” There were also six presentations on Innovations in Methods, five Critical Conversations and five Spark sessions led by faculty members from 30 colleges and universities from 19 different states.

The summit provided space for participants to share their work, network with new colleagues, and discuss critical topics in elementary social studies that are often ignored or marginalized in larger conferences. All of the speakers were either women, faculty of color, or scholars of marginalized topics such as Indigenous peoples.

“Our vision in planning for this conference was to create a space where we could come together and share our ideas and collaborate around our work in critical elementary social studies,” Tschida said. “As elementary social studies has become more and more marginalized in recent years, it is vital that we work to enhance our methods courses and the content being taught so our teacher candidates see the importance of quality social studies instruction.”

Tschida said the feedback the founders received was extremely positive and the team is already planning next year’s conference. “For me, it was an amazing experience,” she said. “I loved that the entire two days was unapologetically critical and a space to focus on elementary social studies.”

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